Behavioral Targeting in Asia

Last week, I went to Beijing, where I met with digital media colleagues from China, India, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea as part of an Ogilvy Asia regional training program.

It was really inspiring to see the diverse approaches to Internet media and marketing. It reinforced the idea that there are many different ways to deliver creative, effective digital communications programs.

Amidst this plurality there was a major, transcendent theme: growth. The Asian online advertising marketplace is growing quickly in every country I looked at, outpacing other media in similar ways to the U.S.

I’m not using “growth” here in the limited sense of “more” but rather “more of what exists, plus lots of new things.”

Among the new things, behavioral targeting came up consistently as a subject of curiosity and interest with my Asian peers.

Revenue Science in Japan

Revenue Science recently announced a partnership with Digital Advertising Consortium (DAC) to bring behavioral targeting to Japan. This is the first time behavioral targeting will be supported in kanji characters. In that sense, this opens an entirely new category of online advertising in Japan.

The deal, made public in late February, is basically an exclusive contract for DAC to deliver Revenue Science’s behavioral targeting services to Japanese advertisers and publishers.

DAC is a Japanese advertising business that represents major Japanese Web sites, including Yahoo Japan, MSN Japan, and Infoseek. It was formed by some of the largest ad agencies in Japan, including Hakuhodo and Asatsu-DK, which is part of the WPP Group.

DAC began providing a trial service with select publishers, including its own ad network, in January this year and will start actual service next month.

Nick Johnson, business development SVP for Revenue Science, worked for Grey in Japan for four years. He said the Japanese market is ready for behavioral targeting, given how online is emerging as a major part of the overall media situation there.

All Asian Markets Are Not the Same

Though Japan has said konnichiwa to foreign providers like Revenue Science, not all Asian markets are alike. Some can be quite closed to foreign entrants and may build their own technology rather than import. This will take time.

And though some Asian markets are literally years ahead of the U.S. in terms of mobile phone capabilities and broadband Internet access speeds, there are other, more fundamental areas of online publishing and advertising that may have to be developed before behavioral targeting. Things as simple as rich media ad serving in some markets, for example.

This leads me to believe there won’t necessarily be a behavioral targeting explosion all across Asia in the very near term as a result of the Revenue Science-DAC Japanese partnership.

With this deal, Japan notches a little ahead of the other markets in a specialist targeting area while others work on other priorities. This is great for Japan, but not necessarily a black mark for the rest.

Over time, there will be interesting variants and developments coming from the rest of Asia that will make us all think differently about behavioral targeting. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

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